Panic! At the Castle

31 07 2012

“Don’t panic.” It’s a phrase made famous by British science fiction writer Douglas Adams in his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. Fellow writer Arthur C. Clarke said that advice is perhaps the best that could be given to humanity.

Apparently Douglas Adams never had a Troll ready to take out the last piece of his castle, because that’s a perfect time to panic!

Castle Panic is a cooperative game for 1-6 players. Your castle is being attacked from all sides by hordes of evil monsters. If they destroy all of the pieces of your castle, you lose; if you defeat all the monsters, you win.

Components

  • 1 Gameboard—The board consists of a big circle that has a castle in the center and a forest all around, divided into six pie-shaped sections. One-third of the sections are blue, one-third green, and one-third red. And the whole “pie” is divided again into concentric circles with names such as Archer, Knight, and Swordsman. We’ll get into what that means later.
  • 1 Rulebook—It’s full-color and well organized. It helps that at its core the game is fairly simple.
  • 49 Castle Cards—The cards aren’t the best quality; you might want to sleeve them to prolong their life.
  • 49 Monster Tokens—Simple, sturdy, and functional.
  • 6 Walls
  • 6 Towers
  • 1 Tar Token
  • 2 Fortify Tokens
  • 6 Order of Play Cards
  • 12 Plastic Stands—Unlike some games, these stands are pretty tight; we’ve had no problems with them not holding the pieces.
  • 1 6-Sided Die

 Gameplay

The board starts with a six monsters—one in the Archer ring of each of the six sections. Depending on the monster, they have 1-3 hit points (HPs). They always start at full strength, and if a monster takes a hit, you simply rotate it so the next lowest HP is facing toward the center. If it’s on its last HP, it’s dead! Yay! In the center of the board you build your castle—which means you put one Castle piece in each of the six pie sections. Just outside of that you place a Wall piece in front of each castle piece.

A turn consists of:

  1. Drawing up to your hand limit (this limit varies depending on the number of players).
  2. Discarding one card and drawing another to replace it (optional).
  3. Trading one card with one other player (also optional).
  4. Playing cards to kick some monster butt (hopefully).
  5. Moving all monsters on the board. (Each monster moves one concentric circle closer to the castle.)
  6. Drawing two more monster tokens. (This is where you draw a monster. Cry. Roll the die, and put the monster in the Forest circle of the numbered section that matches what you rolled. Cry again. Repeat.)

The card deck includes cards such as Green Knight, or Blue Swordsman. So if you play that card, you can hit one monster for one point if it’s in the Swordsman circle of the board. This is where trading becomes important, because your Red Archer card might not be useful to you on this turn, but when the monsters move at the end of your turn it’ll be really useful to the player on your left during her turn. So you can trade a card she’ll need next turn for a card you need this turn. You always have to look ahead in this game.

Most of the tiles in the Monster Pool are actual monsters, but there are a few other tiles, such as one where all monsters in a certain-colored section move forward one space (and since they’ve just done that already, this can really mess things up). Or one that reads, “All Monsters Move Clockwise,” which will totally screw up your best-laid plans, since that might cause a monster to be in a different-colored section now. Aaargh! Or one that tells you to draw three or four MORE monsters! Or a boulder that will roll through a section, helpfully killing monsters in its path—and unhelpfully destroying Walls and Castles, too.

There are other types of cards to help you in the fight. For instance, Hero cards in each of the colors that let you hit a monster at any level in that particular color. Or one that lets you put a Tar token on a monster to keep it from moving forward for one turn. Or one that lets you look through the discard pile and find the card you really need right now.

So what happens if a monster is on the innermost circle and it’s time to move him? More crying, that’s what! If there’s a wall there, the monster destroys the wall, stops moving, and takes one point of damage. (Yes, that might kill it.) If there’s no Wall there, it instead destroys a Castle section, stops moving, and takes one point of damage. If a monster is already in the very center section—where the castle is…er, was—and it’s time to move, it moves clockwise and destroys the next castle section, stops, and takes damage. This is bad because, while you can play one Brick and one Mortar card together to rebuild a Wall, you can never rebuild Castle pieces.

And there you have it. Each player runs through the above Turn Order until either all of the pieces of your Castle are destroyed, or all of the monsters on the board and in the Monster Pool are dead. The game suggests keeping track of which monsters each player defeats, and then declaring the person who clobbered the most monsters the Master Slayer and ultimate winner—assuming you win, of course. We always ignore that rule, though, and just all win or all lose.

Verdict

As cooperative games go, this one’s on the lighter end, strategically—the choices are a little more obvious than other co-op games. As such, I’ve never broken this out with my game group, but I do play it ALL THE TIME with my wife and kids. My oldest is 7 and he does just fine with it (even though the game suggests it’s for 10 and older). The 4-year-old is the designated monster draw-er and dice roller. I think this would work well with a youth group, too; co-op games are a great way to build camaraderie as you work toward a single goal…

It’s a game about monsters, and killing monsters. The killing is, of course, abstracted (you just remove the tile from the board), but if you’re sensitive to that, you’ll want to pass. There is an expansion out now (expect a review soon!), that features a Wizard’s Tower. So the use of magic is something to consider, too.

My kids adore this game, and it’s made for some super-exciting finishes—once we were down to a single Castle piece left on the board when we were able to pull out a win. If you’re looking for some non-competitive gaming fun, I highly recommend you start panicking as soon as possible. But don’t forget your towel…

Castle Panic on Amazon

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Board Games Get a Geeky Apologist

30 07 2012

Wil Wheaton has maintained his Geek cred, despite years of being everyone’s favorite whipping boy from Star Trek: The Next Generation. From guest spots on The Big Bang Theory to celebrity roleplaying panels at gaming conventions, he wears his Geek Badge with pride. Well now he’s bringing boardgames out of the darkness into…well, slightly less darkness. Geek & Sundry is a series of YouTube videos designed to increase the amount of unique content on the site. There are numerous “channels”—including one on fantasy and science fiction books, and one on various Dark Horse comics. Wil’s hosting one called Tabletop that deals with board gaming. He and a few of his friends get together and play a game. They introduce the rules gradually and visually, and you get to see a whole game played through. The production is slick, and they skip over some of the slower parts. Depending on the guest, sometimes the banter can get off-color. But we applaud his effort to make our geeky hobby just a little more mainstream.

You can check out the episode where they play Small World—with Mythbuster‘s Grant Imahara—here. Or the Castle Panic episode here. (Caution: language.)

Stay tuned tomorrow for our own review of Castle Panic. See you then, and thanks for reading!





When We Last Left Our Heroes! (July 23-27, 2012)

29 07 2012

It was a busy week for the TOGers—and we’re a little late with the recap. But we had our first contest, and our first contest winner! There are more giveaways to come—including one that’s running right now!

Our first contest—and our first contest winner!

Here’s a review of What’s it To Ya?—a party game that would be great to use with a group of teenagers.

Jeremiah kicked off a series on dead CCGs of the past. Remember the Pez CCG? No one else does either…

Another free-game giveaway! Win your very own copy of What’s It To Ya?

Gloom: Does a neat-o, see-through-card gimmick make for a fun game? Check our review.

We preview Alcatraz—a new co-op-until-I-stab-you-in-the-back game.

Kickstarter is a great mechanism for getting new games published—but it’s not without risk…

Thanks so much for reading. Check back next week when we’ll have more news and reviews—including a review of one of our kids’ favorite games: Castle Panic! Have a great rest of your weekend.





Ain’t That a Kick in the Head: The Joys & Pitfalls of Kickstarting Board Games

27 07 2012

I sit here, mere hours away from the end of a kickstarter campaign, and I can’t decide whether to pledge my money.

In case you’re not familiar, Kickstarter.com is a Web site where people set up projects—be they books, or paintings, or video games, or board games—and ask people to give money toward that project. They have to set a certain dollar amount, and a date, and if the project hasn’t reached that amount by that date, the project doesn’t fund and no one pays a red cent. The incentive for backers is that they often get their hands on the project before anyone else. And they usually get some kind of special Kickstarter-only bonus. There are new games popping up every day…I’m just not sure that’s a good thing.

You see, in August of last year, I backed a game called Glory To Rome. I was supposed to have the game in my hands a month or two later. Well…it’s July, and those games are even now on a slow boat from China (literally). I might see it next month. I’m not confident.

Some of the gorgeous art from Glory To Rome.

It’s not just this bad experience that’s made me gun-shy. I don’t really like all these companies seeing this as a way to move mediocre games into the system. Before, companies were more discriminating when it came to what they produced—their money and warehouse space was on the line. Did some gems slip through the cracks? Sure. But now we have lots of games out there that passed a bare minimum vetting process, and will be produced as long as it gets backed on Kickstarter. Some of them are great games, but I also think this is leading to more stinkers getting through. I don’t think a game should be produced just because the money comes through—I want good games produced!

Another problem is that this process provides the consumers with very little info on these games. Before, a game would be produced, and you could do research, or play a friend’s copy to find out if you liked it. With Kickstarter, you have very little information to go on, and if you want to get all of the cool bonuses (and who doesn’t?!), then you feel compelled to back a game you have almost no information about. Is a short video—produced by the company who wants your money—going to give you a good idea about whether the game really is good or not? I’m doubtful. That leads to people buying mediocre games that they might not have before. Which leads to gun-shy people…like me…who hesitate to back games in the future.

Which brings me back to my current predicament. This game looks pretty fun–anthropomorphic, crazy, steampunk vultures?! Awesome! It’s not very expensive. But I just don’t know.

I’m backing it on faith. It might be a stinker; it might be awesome. Either way, I’ll let you know.





Alcatraz Pre-Order from Z-Man Games

27 07 2012

If you’re quick, witty, and underhanded enough you can escape from Alcatraz, you can also pre-order the new board game from Z-Man Games. The game releases at Gen-Con next month and they’re only taking pre-orders until tomorrow (Fri, July 28).

Alcatraz – looks like another game in the vein of Battlestar Galactica or The Resistance, only this time players are cooperatively planning a prison break from the Rock. Only to find out one of them is going to get left behind in order for the plans to succeed! I just read up on the game this morning and it has me pretty geeked out right now. And the best news: There’s no hint of Nicolas Cage, anywhere.

I would, however, suggest playing it with close friends who will be willing to patch things up after you punched them in the nose for stabbing you in the back. Or, I’d suggest you remember it’s only a game!

Sadly, neither of us here at TOG have plans to attend Gen-Con, which is tragic news for us. But we’ll be working to get our hands on this one as soon as possible!

If you’re going, and you get a chance to play this, please let us know how you liked it—leave your comments here! What other games are you looking forward to playing at the Con?





Gloom – The Addam’s Family of Card Games

26 07 2012

Review by Jeremiah.

Gloom, is probably too cheery a name for a game that takes place in a world where “the sky is gray, and the tea is  cold, and a new tragedy lies around every corner.” I picked up this game because the gimmicky design hooked me, so I had to give it a try.

Overview The context of the game is this: Players choose a family to take control of, and the belief of these families is that the more one suffers in this life, the greater the reward is in the sweet by and by. So players take turns playing cards on their characters that will cause them to suffer, thus giving them negative Pathos Points, and then ultimately play a card triggering their untimely death. Meanwhile opponents attempt to play modifying cards on each other that will cheer them up!

End Game – The game is over when a player has successfully made all 5 of their family members as miserable as possible, and then killed them off. The player whose family has the lowest total self worth, wins. I guess. It’s kind of like miniature golf in that regard, everyone is miserable and the lowest score wins.

You Said Something About a Gimmick? – Yes, yes I did. The game is printed on plastic, see-through cards. So instead of stacking up modifiers underneath or next to a character, you actually place modifying cards on top of the character card. These modifying cards have 3 different locations in which they can add or subtract from your Pathos Points; playing certain cards may cover up points or add to them depending on the location. It’s very cool looking. However we found it very hard to read the cards on a darker table top, so we used blank sheets of printer paper as a play mat for each player, and the cards popped right off the table! There are also “Story Icons” on some cards, which add some card synergy to the game; having matching icons will again add or subtract Pathos Points and again these can be covered by other icons or just blanked out completely.

Well… Did You Like It? – Yes. And, no. The game designer, Keith Baker, really put out a solid effort on this one. The game plays pretty well, the mechanics don’t feel gimmicky even though they could easily let the clear cards be the selling point. It’s strategic and competitive, but beyond that the flavor text included in the rules goes great distances to ensure that the game is more than just laying small rectangular pieces of see-through plastic on the table. There is a somewhat lengthy description of the “world of Gloom,” as well as the families players can take control of. And further still players are encouraged to story-tell during game play. So instead of simply playing a card and saying, “Okay, so that’s minus 15,” you’re encouraged to play your card and explain that your character “Was out late one night and made a poor decision to order the Pu-Pu platter at the Chinese Restaurant and therefore was – Distressed by Dysentery – giving him negative 15 points!” This is great. And can be fun and entertaining with the right players in the game!
The aspect of this that doesn’t ring true with me is that there are cards that become a little too gloomy for my taste: Chastised by the Church, Pestered by Poltergeists, Hunted by Horrors, etc. The game is intended to be cartoony and humorous in a dark way, but in some ways, for me, it gets a little too dark at times. Of course, I don’t know what else one would expect when a game’s goal is to maim and kill your own characters.

The End –  Since its release Atlas has added 3 expansions, each of which adds a family, and therefore the ability to add players to the game. The game plays well, but raises many flags for me on the content side of things; tread carefully with this one, or check it out at your local game shop before picking it up!

Am I way off on this? I’d love to hear your opinions and experiences with Gloom, leave them in the comments below! And as always, thanks for reading!

Gloom is on Amazon if you dare!





More Free Stuff!

25 07 2012

Earlier this week we reviewed a fun little party game called, What’s it to Ya?

Today we launch a contest to win yourself a free copy!

So, here’s how it works, it’s pretty simple, just follow this link RIGHT HERE! And like our Facebook page to enter! And that’s it!

We’ll close entries at midnight on Friday Aug. 3rd, so head on over and get your entries in!

Thanks for reading! We’d love to hear your feedback on what’s going on here at TOG, please leave your comments here, or on the Facebook page!

And don’t forget to follow us  on Twitter, we’d love to chat with our readers! @JeremiahIsley, @Firestone and @TheologyofGames

 

 








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